Holy cow! What a productive weekend!
Since Friday I have spent some 19 hours working on the boat! Started with a trip to West Marine, where I loaded up on bits and pieces for:
1. An electrical panel for the boat complete with fuses,
port for a Raymarine autopilot, jack for hooking up the Garmin to power and the autopilot, two cigarette lighters sockets for accessories and fuses for the whole shebang
2. A solar panel, which plugs into a cigarette lighter socket
3. Straps for gear storage
So I gathered my courage, and starting my weekend by drilling a 1 inch hole into the transom of my boat for an oarlock for sculling or use as an emergency tiller. This required fortitude, because it is only 1 1/2 inches thick below the lip, and so being off-angle had significance. I planned on my incompetence, however, and so I drilled between the motor mount on the starboard side, so that if I did go off reservation, I wouldn’t create a cosmetically apparent injury to the boat. All went well, but it turns out I needed a slightly bigger hole, so out came the Dremel and a lot of fussy work.
When drilling a hole for this sort of a gear, it is important to understand that the hull of a “cored” fiberglass boat is like a sandwich, with a hard shell on either side and a lot of soft balsa wood (like the tomatoes and cheese) on the inside. Just drilling a hole is no good. The core won’t support the gear, and just a little bit of water getting inside starts the boat rotting from the inside. So what you must do is drill out twice the volume of core that you plan to fill with gear in order to make a solid platform, and then fill that with fiberglass. THEN you can drill a hole the exact size of the fitting through the puddle of fiberglass, confident of its strength and impermeability to water.
The next job was the electrical system. Fortunately, I found a wonderful little fuse panel at West Marine for cheap that had six separate circuits, more than I need at the moment.
Using a hole saw, I drilled a series of holes into a simple watertight box. The cigarette lighter sockets went through one side, and the autopilot the other with the battery cable and the line out to the GPS. The wires run to the fuse box and out to their respective device, and it all tucks nicely inside, with some silicone sealant to protect the water-resistant apparatus. I put some velcro on the inside of the face and also the fuse panel so that nothing shifts and its weight is supported.
I relocated the anchor to in the cockpit (where it is more accessible) and will store the battery in the front locker, lashed to the deck. I ran the battery cable under the deck to the forward bulkhead and fished the wire through, then plugged up the hole with silicone.
Finally, I cut some Starboard (marine “wood”, to create supporting brackets for a solar panel which plugs into the electrical box to charge the battery. With a nifty combination of bolts, washers, nuts and countersinking I was able to fashion a sweet mounting solution. I had just enough velcro cord holdfasts to secure the wire to the bimini rig.
Thanks to Hoa for dealing with the kids while I was getting all of this done! Hopefully the autopilot will allow us to navigate more effectively and concentrate on the 50 other things that make sailing long distances in strange waters safer and faster!